Brace yourself for a short, intense dose of royal cuteness. On Sept. 24, Prince William and his wife, Kate, arrive in Victoria for an eight-day visit of British Columbia and the Yukon. They won’t be alone. The most famous of royal children—Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 17 months—are coming as well. The children’s inclusion on the couple’s second visit to Canada was rumoured to be in the cards. After all, they took baby George on their long tour of New Zealand and Australia (though not on this year’s trip to India and Bhutan, which would have necessitated shots.)
“This visit is a chance for the duke and duchess to deepen their relationship with a country that they will visit many times over the course of their lives,” says the palace’s announcement. “They want to help the people of British Columbia and Yukon to celebrate what makes Canada great and to showcase some amazing places to the rest of the world.”
The photos ops will begin when the family arrives in Victoria. William and Kate will carry their (jet-lagged) children down the steps of the RCAF plane. After the initial handshakes with officials, the kids will be whisked away by their parents and nanny to the family’s base at Government House. Only after that will the duke and duchess of Cambridge attend the official greeting at the provincial legislature.
Don’t expect to see much of the royal children. Security at Government House will be ferociously tight. The kids will play amid the expansive, 10-hectare grounds and oak forest, perhaps venturing to the Butchart Gardens while their parents undertake a logistically challenging tour that involves some serious travelling. For a start, the kids are young, really young. Travelling by canoe, hovercraft and the like may sound like fun to adults, but that’s not happening with children of that age, especially with the media watching.
While the palace’s details don’t specifically include an event for the children, there’s one that all but screams, “Playtime!” On Sept. 29, “the duke and duchess will attend a children’s party in the beautiful grounds of Government House. A group of military families have been invited to share what should be a really lovely morning with plenty of surprises for the children.” If George and Charlotte are up to it, they will be there. If there’s ever an opportunity for the royal children to play with one of Trudeau’s children, perhaps Hadrien, 2, this is it.
While the media will be at all events, the only time ordinary Canadians can see George and Charlotte for themselves will be at the official departure in Victoria harbour at the end of the tour, on Oct. 1.
Canada has a long history of playing host to royal children. In 1991, William and his brother, Harry, went on their first royal visit in Canada. Based on the Royal Yacht Britannia in Toronto, they went to Niagara Falls and other sites while their parents were here on official business. In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II and her family went to Montreal to watch Princess Anne compete at the Summer Olympics. It’s the only time the entire family has been outside Britain together.
Aside from a government reception in Victoria on Monday, Sept. 26, the only evening event will be a cultural performance at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse. Hopes of royal fashion bloggers for a grand evening-gown-and-tiara gala are dust.
There will be, however, lots and lots of events that highlight the spectacular scenery of the West Coast. The word “beautiful” appears nine times in the palace statement, with one “spectacular” to describe the route from Whitehorse to Carcross, Yukon. The itinerary also includes “beauty,” “picturesque,” “special” and pretty much every other descriptor in the dictionary. Tourism officials will have their fingers crossed for good weather, and this is very much an outdoors tour. The couple will fly to Vancouver by float plane. They will hike on one of the trails in Great Bear Rainforest, just named as Canada’s commitment to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.
In the Yukon, the royals will travel to “the beautiful Montana Mountain where they will visit what must be one of the world’s most picturesque destinations for mountain biking.” On Friday, Sept. 30, they travel to Haida Gwaii. “When the couple arrive at Skidegate, they will transfer to a traditional Haida canoe and will help to paddle around to the beach at the Haida Heritage Centre and Museum, where they will be officially welcomed.”
There are serious moments in the tour as well. The couple are high-profile campaigners for youth mental health and addiction services. In Vancouver, William and Kate will go to the Downtown Eastside “to meet the amazing team at Sheway, a charity that has achieved remarkable things for vulnerable mothers who are battling addiction and other issues.” Then they will visit the Immigration Services Society of British Columbia. “Here they will meet the staff and volunteers who support over 25,000 recent migrants to Canada each year, including some of the 30,000 who have arrived in Canada over the last year from UNHCR camps that are supporting those who have fled the war in Syria.”
In Victoria, they will check out the Cridge Centre for the Family, which “provides a range of services, including child care, youth outreach, and support for women who have experienced domestic violence.”
With one afternoon off—after the children’s party—royal officials are keen to emphasize the busyness of the tour, pointing out they will undertake more than 30 engagements. It’s a way of counteracting recent bad press about how few engagements the couple undertake. Earlier this year, London papers gave the prince a drubbing when he didn’t undertake his first bit of royal work until six weeks into 2016. “Work-shy William” was one of the more polite nicknames. (In 2015, he did just 122 while Kate, who gave birth to Charlotte in May, undertook 62. In contrast, Prince Philip, now 95, ticked off 250 engagements.)
“They cannot wait to get to Canada,” the release stated, “and start learning about new parts of a country that will play such an important part of their lives for many years to come.”